What is Transpersonal Counselling?
It includes the spiritual experience
Transpersonal Counselling can be distinguished from many other forms of counselling by its attendance to the spiritual dimension of life.
It could be said that most models of psychology focus on either the abnormal or the normal functioning of the human being. The Transpersonal model also includes ways of being or functioning which are beyond the normal, in the realm of concepts such as transcendent or mystical experiences, enlightenment and access to higher wisdom. It is concerned less with making us normal and more with developing our fullest potential as human beings. Crisis, illness and difficulty are placed within this larger context of growth. Our troubles and trials are an integral part of the process of becoming, not merely symptoms we need remove in order to return to our lives as they were before. Once we move through a particular phase of our healing journey we can become more awake, alive and whole than we were before our troubles came along.
Whilst Transpersonal Counselling includes and attends to the spiritual domain, this is not exclusive of the other elements of human experience. It is a holistic approach which values the entire person. Talking, thinking, meaning-making, feeling and expressing emotions and creating strategies can all be a part of the process. Whilst the work can move beyond the personal to the spiritual, unconscious and archetypal domains, it also includes the personal as a valid and meaningful part of the whole.
It recognizes and utilises different states of consciousness
An important element in the Transpersonal map of the human being is that we exist within a spectrum of consciousness. That is to say that there is a wide range of possible ways that we can experience ourselves and our realities. An ordinary day consists of many shifts in states, from sleeping and dreaming to the cognitive realm of thinking and planning, to the imaginative realm of daydream or reverie, to the embodied experience of vigorous exercise, to the dissolving and merging of making love, to depression, anxiety, peak experiences of oneness with the universe, and endless other possibilities. It is important to realise that each state has its own qualities, potentials and resources.
The Transpersonal approach understands this and seeks to use this knowledge for the benefit of the person. There is a science or an art to accessing particular states. The Transpersonal Counsellor is someone who has been trained in guiding others to access specific states for the purposes of healing. The counselling tools and techniques used are sourced from modern psychology, traditional spiritual practices and of course the practitioner’s own experience in life. Simple examples include meditation, hypnosis, guided visualization and deep emotional experiencing.
…and who might want to see a Transpersonal Counsellor?
The Transpersonal approach is especially suited to people for whom spirituality is an important aspect of their lives. This can certainly include those who don’t necessarily identify as being “spiritual” but have a strong relationship with personal and moral growth, or are particularly concerned with life’s meaning and purpose. If people like these see a counsellor who doesn’t reflect these parts of them, they can wind up feeling they are only exploring a small part of what is happening for them.
Transpersonal Counselling is also a good fit for people who may be undergoing crises of meaning or purpose, and for those who are working to integrate peak spiritual or non-ordinary experiences into their lives. In a relationship counselling context, the Transpersonal approach is very supportive for those who see their relationships as vehicles for their personal and spiritual growth and are committed to being as conscious in their relationships as possible.
The Transpersonal model has come together as a conglomeration of influences from various sources, not from any particular individual. As such, there may be varying definitions of Transpersonal Counselling that highlight different aspects of the approach. Also, like within any model of therapeutic work, the approach of different Transpersonal Counsellors can vary greatly from person to person. Whilst finding the right counselling approach is important, probably more important is finding the right counsellor for you.